Senate investigators will question Justice Department and FBI officials this week about their disputes in 1997 over how to investigate the financing of the Clinton-Gore reelection campaign, Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Fred D. Thompson (R-Tenn.) said yesterday.
Thompson said the depositions will focus on the disappearance of an FBI agent's notes about Clinton-Gore campaign fund-raiser Yah Lin "Charlie" Trie, a matter that is the subject of a separate Justice Department internal probe.
"We had an entirely unsatisfactory meeting Thursday with officials from the Justice Department and FBI offices responsible for handling this internal investigation into the pages apparently removed," Thompson said at a news conference.
"They've known for a month that the agent's notes have apparently been altered, but even when we met with these officials specifically to discuss their findings to date, they were wholly unprepared to talk about the details. The committee now intends to find out the details on its own."
Roberta Parker, an FBI agent on the Campaign Finance Task Force investigating abuses in the 1996 presidential race, testified before Thompson's committee last week that 27 pages in one of three spiral notebooks she turned over to Justice Department lawyers in June were missing when the notebooks were returned in August.
The committee described the pages as "the only detailed, contemporaneous record" of a key series of disputes between FBI and Justice in 1997 about their campaign finance investigation.
Among the incidents detailed in Parker's notes was one in which FBI agents told Justice attorneys that Trie was destroying documents subpoenaed by Thompson's 1997 congressional campaign finance probe. The agents testified last week that the Justice lawyers refused for four months to allow agents to ask for a search warrant to prevent the documents' destruction.
Justice Department spokesman Myron Marlin said, "We'll certainly work with Congress in any probe they decide to initiate but the Office of Professional Responsibility at both FBI and DOJ is investigating the matter."
Trie pleaded guilty in May to two counts of violating federal election laws. He contributed $220,000 to the Democratic National Committee and $789,000 to the Presidential Legal Expense Trust using money assembled from sources in Taiwan and China. The funds were later returned.
Thompson also released an Aug. 4, 1997, memo from FBI agent Ivian C. Smith to FBI Director Louis J. Freeh in which Smith documented his "ongoing concerns" with the conduct of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section in the campaign finance investigation.
In one July 1997 incident cited in the memo, FBI agents convinced section attorneys to approve a search of the Little Rock house of Trie's business manager, Maria Mapili. The agents had seen Mapili and her lawyer removing boxes, cabinets and other items from Trie's house and taking them to her own, Smith wrote to Freeh.
But Justice attorney Laura Ingersoll withdrew approval for the search, Smith said, after learning that Mapili's lawyer was a longtime personal attorney for Don Tyson, a wealthy poultry businessman and friend of the Clintons. Ingersoll was later removed from overseeing the investigation.
In another incident Smith described to Freeh, the FBI was allowed to search the trash of Mapili's home and found torn pieces of photocopies of six checks from Asian contributors payable to Clinton's legal expense trust. "Ingersoll indicated, in so many words, 'we will not pursue this matter,' " Smith told Freeh.
Mapili ended up pleading guilty in a deal with prosecutors in exchange for her testimony against Trie. Trie, for his part, accepted a deal four days into his trial.